WASHINGTON, Oct. 29 (UPI) -- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wants four native freshwater turtle species -- the common snapping turtle, Florida softshell turtle, smooth softshell turtle, and spiny softshell turtle -- to be better protected by the rules of an international treaty known as CITES.
CITES, or the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, is an agreement among 80 nations aimed at helping wildlife managers better monitor the international trade of endangered and vulnerable species.
On Wednesday, FWS issued a rule proposal that would see the four species included on the treaty's Appendix III list. Appendix III is reserved for species that are not endangered but are vulnerable to exploitation by international traders. Appendices I and II offer protections to species who are currently threatened by extinction or likely will be in the future.
While the addition or removal of animals from Appendices I and II requires the approval of two-thirds of member nations, any treaty member can add one or more species to Appendix III independently -- without a vote on the matter.
FWS officials say by listing these four freshwater turtle species, import and export inspectors at home and abroad will have greater legal authority to offer the proper amount scrutiny to shipments containing these animals.
Though the four turtles now awaiting their CITES listing enjoy relatively healthy numbers in the United States, wildlife officials say they are increasingly under threat of collection and exportation -- activities that, if left unchecked, could decimate the species.
The new rule proposal, which will be officially published on Thursday, will undergo a 60-day comment period. Once that time period is up, FWS will move to vote on and approve the proposal.